The competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector

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In April, we wrote that the European Commission’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, had announced a proposal to launch a competition sector inquiry into the e-commerce sector. That inquiry has now been launched.

The sector inquiry will focus on those goods and services in which e-commerce is most widespread, such as electronics, clothing and shoes as well as digital content. It will apply to all 28 Member States.

In the course of the inquiry, the Commission will request information from businesses and industry associations and may carry out inspections. Fines may be imposed for supply of incorrect or misleading information.

The Commission will begin circulating questionnaires to relevant parties in the next few weeks. This could include manufacturers and wholesalers as well as e-commerce retailers.

The Commission expects to publish a preliminary report for consultation next year with the final report anticipated for early 2017.

If your business is likely to be affected by the Commission inquiry, Walker Morris can help. A Competition law review of your Terms and Conditions for internet sales and contractual arrangements with distributors may put your mind at rest. We regularly advise companies on commercially sensitive issues raised by internet versus bricks and mortar re-sellers and we have extensive expertise in advising our clients on competition law compliance, including provision of training and drafting policies, so that staff know what they can and cannot say to resellers. We defend our clients against competition investigations and are familiar with the nuances of external engagement with competition authorities, sector regulators and other stakeholders on competition issues.